ZOA: Proposed Saudi Arabia Weapons Sale is Contrary to American and Israeli Security Needs
January 18, 2008

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the proposed sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to Saudi Arabia as part of the $ 20 Billion arms package formally announced on January 14. The proposed arms sale is not in the best interests of US national security, or that of Israel, our most trusted ally in the region. Further, while the satellite-guided weapons component of the package would be of little use to Saudi Arabia in combating an Iranian attack or the internal threats to the stability of the kingdom, the risk of JDAM technology being compromised by this sale is uncomfortably high.

Daniel Pollak and Joshua London of the Division of Government Relations for the ZOA said: “the ZOA is opposed to the sale of satellite-guided weapons kits to the Saudi military. Peace and regional stability are not enhanced by transferring this technology to a nation like Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom’s ties to the terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere remain strong. The Saudis continue to propagate and subsidize the poisonous religious ideology of Wahhabi Islam that nourishes terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and undermines the voices of moderation in the Islamic world. The Saudi’s disgusting record of trampling basic human rights should, alone, give policy makers reason to rethink this sale. The technology is too important to be compromised, unhelpful to the real security needs of Saudi Arabia, and rewards the Kingdom in spite of their unhelpful policies in the region.”

Much of the reaction to the proposed sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to Saudi Arabia has suffered from misdirection, and some of that misdirection has been intentional. JDAMs are included in the $20 billion sale to the Kingdom announced January 14. The first potential confusion point is that JDAMs are not weapons themselves, but kits that can be added to a standard “dumb” bomb to make them hit a target with extraordinary accuracy. The kit can be attached to a wide variety of existing weapons and use the GPS coordinates of the target to achieve accuracy within 10 meters of the actual location. The weapons also have an inertial guidance system for backup, for use if the GPS signal is lost or jammed.

The portability of the kits makes them much more difficult to account for than ordinary, bulky weapons. It is difficult to implement an effective system of accountability for these kits, given that in order to train with them, technicians will need to install them at multiple locations under field conditions, and on a routine basis. Simply put, there will be no way to guarantee that these kits do not fall into the hands of our enemies. It would certainly be bad if American forces were ever bombed by Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) of our own making, but that is not the worst case scenario. Once an adversary has an actual example of the kit, countermeasures to jam or defeat the JDAM become potentially much easier.

In response to opposition to the sale, Congressmen have been briefed with reassurances that the JDAM kits would not be used against Israel, that there are classified technical reasons why they would not be a threat to friendly forces, and that Israel would be able to “maintain a qualitative edge.” All of these reassurances are disingenuous. The Saudis explicitly promised during both the Carter and Clinton Administrations not to base US supplied F-15 S aircraft at the Tabuk airbase in the northwestern corner of the Kingdom, near Israel. In 2003, they violated this pledge, and no action was taken by the US government. In fact, the US administration retroactively permitted the basing within striking range of Israel. It is ironic that so many commentators at the time speculated that the Saudi failure to live by the terms of the F-15 sale would make future arms sales difficult to pass.

Classified technical limitations on the weapons are by nature beyond the scope of discussion, but it is surely optimistic to believe that our adversaries cannot hire contractors to overcome simple limitations on technology. It is true that Israel is to be provided with even higher tech JDAMs that utilize lasers to attack moving targets and achieve even higher accuracy. This is very nice, but is not even relevant to a discussion about the vulnerabilities we will be introducing by allowing the penultimate technology to fall into the wrong hands.

America has made serious misjudgments about sales of advanced weapons in the past. F-14s with Phoenix missiles were sold to Iran just before the revolution, and vital avionics technology was compromised. This sale risks compromise even if the Saudi government remains stable. Stability is far from assured, though. The biggest misdirection involved in this sale is that the danger to Saudi Arabia is not an external attack from Iran but internal challenges. The country of Saudi Arabia gets its name from the single extended family that runs virtually everything in the kingdom. They exercise feudal rule, pander to religious extremists to buy their loyalty, export their Wahhabi religious ideology around the globe, and allow the financing of terrorist groups to offset the decadent lifestyle they are seen to enjoy. The Shiite minority is concentrated around the richest oil region, and unrest is only uncommon because of extreme and violent repression. What target does the administration expect the Saudis to attack with these JDAMs? Letting the Saudis have more high-tech hardware to add to their impressive list of foreign military equipment and the bribes they generate for the Royal Family in this case adds nothing to US security.

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